Archive for the “Responsibility You Can’t Refuse” (Week Three) Category

Responsibility You Can’t Refuse

Posted in "Responsibility You Can't Refuse" (Week Three) on April 27, 2011 by John R. Kitch

"Michael Corleone" (Al Pacino, left) discusses business with his father "Vito Corleone" (Marlon Brando, right) in a scene from "The Godfather".

No matter how bad things seem to be in my life, whatever troubles are bothering me or challenging the concentration on my studies, I am always assured of one comfort that is constantly in existence. That is the knowledge that I have a good family. Since the day I was born, I have had the best support group that anyone could ask for. A grand tradition in my family, on both sides, has always been the respect for family. My family supports its members, and promotes their individualism, but in return it is our duty to serve the family and maintain its well-being when asked to do so. In my opinion, it is not an unreasonable demand. If my father said he needed some of my bone marrow to keep him alive, it would be the least I could do after all that he has done for me (that includes his paying for the majority of my college tuition).

However, we sometimes feel that we are thrown into unfair obligations when our family is in a crisis. In August 2007, my grandfather (Dad’s dad) died after years of diabetes and complications of the heart. It didn’t help that he smoked cigarettes religiously and maintained a poor diet. Years of hard work, when he received a great number of injuries, had also taken their toll. But, he was known to be a die-hard, which gave his death an odd quality of surprise. While working on grain elevators, Grandpa had a drill shoved through his chest in an accident. It barely missed his heart. While working the same occupation, his arms were severely burned. As a rancher, he had been thrown off of horses and kicked by cattle. In his later years, he survived numerous heart attacks and strokes and still got out of the hospital bed to return to work. Grandpa had that legendary quality of Don Vito Corleone, living a dangerous life and cheating death just to return home and keep business running as usual. But, alas, even the Don dies someday.

In Francis Ford Coppola’s hit “The Godfather”, the true, core drama of the story is not so much about Vito (master method actor Marlon Brando) trying to survive. Although his character is greatly important, he serves more as an idea and has very little screen time. The real plot focuses on Vito’s youngest son, Michael (a baby-faced Al Pacino) and about the responsibilities that are thrust upon him after Vito is gunned-down in the street and bed-ridden. Michael’s older brother, Santino (James Caan), is a non-thinking hot-head. The next son, Frederico (John Cazale), is cowardly and weak. Their adoptive brother, Tom Hagen (the cast keeps getting better with Robert Duvall), although smart, is cautious and prefers to talk rather than fight. Michael is the family’s last hope, and he is forced to meet the challenges that the Corleones face. He becomes the new Don when Santino is murdered and Vito finally dies of old age.

Just as Michael Corleone took his father’s place as Don in “The Godfather”, Dad had to take care of unfinished business for Grandpa when he passed. At the time, Grandpa had a herd of cattle and paid rent for a house and land to graze them on. After the funeral, Dad had the stressful task of seeing that the cattle were properly sold off and that all loose-ends of the rent were settled. The hardest part was paying off unanswered debts and getting Grandma successfully moved off of the property and into a different place.

All of us, especially Dad, knew that the responsibility was there and waiting. I’m sure I will go through a similar trial when my parents depart, but I will gladly accept the responsibility of seeing my family through it when those days arrive. It is the favor I shall return. After all, my family made me an offer I couldn’t refuse: a happy life.

“The Godfather” and all images from it are property of Paramount Pictures.

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